When the Calgary Flames traded Sam Bennett to the Florida Panthers in 2021, they were shipping out an underachieving player that failed to live up to expectations.
But the player Florida received looked completely different.
At the time the Flames chose to move on from Bennett, he had managed just four goals and 12 points in 38 games while averaging under 14 minutes in ice time. Those struggles prompted former General Manager Brad Treliving to move him as well as a sixth-round pick to the Panthers. Bennett’s value had become so low that all that came back in return was Emil Heineman and a second-round selection.
The deal has been a steal for the Panthers. For the Flames, not so much.
The Panthers immediately chose to give him a bigger role, as he averaged over 18 minutes in the 10 regular season games he played with them down the stretch of the 2020-21 campaign. It paid off, as he scored six goals and 15 points in that span.
That offence hasn’t gone anywhere since.
After failing to hit the 20-goal marker during his time with the Flames, Bennett managed 28 in just 71 games during the 2021-22 season. While the goal total dropped to 16 this year, he still managed 40 points in 63 games, a higher total than he was able to record in any of the five full seasons he played in Calgary.
One thing Bennett was able to do during his time with the Flames was contribute in the postseason. That hasn’t gone away at all with the Panthers, as he is a huge reason why they currently find themselves in the Eastern Conference Final.
Not only is Bennett getting things done offensively with four goals and eight points, but the 6-foot-1 forward is instilling fear into his opponents each and every time he gets on the ice.
Tavares got crunched by Bennett pic.twitter.com/GXsHDJLRxG
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 12, 2023
Given his physical style, Bennett has quickly turned into a player other team’s fanbases can’t stand. He certainly walks the line at times in terms of clean play, but that unpredictability in his game is part of what makes him such an impactful player at this time of the year.
Bennett play on Knies. No penalty. Thoughts🤔 pic.twitter.com/xlbEeWwOWE
— Everything Hockey (@EHClothing) May 5, 2023
Despite Bennett’s struggles with the Flames, the Panthers quickly realized after trading for him just how special of a player he was and wasted no time locking him up — signing him to a four-year, $17.7 million extension.
With a cap hit of just $4.425 million, he would have been the Flames’ eighth-highest-paid forward this season. Hindsight is always 20/20, but one can’t help but wonder what could have been had Bennett been given a bigger role during his time in Calgary.
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